Controversial ship owner and port operator Christopher Pastrana’s takeover as General Manager of the Philippine Ports Authority appears to have hit a snag.
Transportation Secretary Jimmy Bautista raised a lot of eyebrows after declaring that the PPA remained vacant seven days after Pastrana and other officials (including Bautista) were sworn in by President Bongbong Marcos in a mass oath taking in Malacanang.
“As we wait for the appointment of your General Manager, which will happen in the next couple of days, please make sure to further reduce shipping and travel costs nationwide and maintain the high quality of service in all ports,” Bautista said during a surprise visit at the PPA office in Manila on July 7.
PPA employees and officers were waiting for Pastrana on what was supposed to be his first day in office on Monday, July 4, but the owner of Fastcat and Philharbor Ferries and Port Services was a no-show.
Pastrana’s selection as PPA GM, which was announced together with Bautista’s nomination, has been tainted by controversy as port operators and ship owners cited conflict of interest in having one of their peers appointed as a regulator.
Pastrana is chairman of Archipelago Philippine Ferries which operates the Fastcat catarman-type roll-on/roll-off vessels.
His Philharbor is a part-owner of Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco) which runs a private-commercial port within the 250-hectare reclamation area in Bacolod City.
Pastrana’s daughters own Philippine Archipelago Ports and Terminal Services while his brother-in-law, Rommel Ibuna, owns Prudential Customs Brokerage Services Inc.
Together, Pastrana and his kin operate at least 18 ports or 20 percent of PPA’s portfolio. Aside from his vested interests in the port and shipping business, Pastrana also owed the Department of Transportation P132.1 million in unpaid monthly amortizations and accumulated interest for vessels Maharlika Uno and Maharlika Dos which it acquired nine years ago.
Will Pastrana’s appointment push through or has Malacanang gotten cold feet?